Roy Bowen Ward, Jr., 77, professor emeritus of comparative religion, died May 20 in Oxford.
Ward, also a former affiliate faculty member in history and women’s studies, taught at Miami from 1964-2007, having chaired the religion department from 1972-1978. Ward was associate provost for special programs 1978-1980.
He was a visiting professor at Rice University from 1970-71.
“Roy demonstrated that a demanding teacher can also be popular," said Peter Williams, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and American Studies and former colleague. "He dealt with controversial material, about both scripture and sexuality, and always insisted that his students confront the texts as they were written. They did not always agree with him, but they certainly respected him.”
In addition to teaching for more than 40 years, Ward authored numerous scholarly papers. Some of his most notable works include "Women in Roman Baths," published in The Harvard Theological Review (1992); "The Use of the Bible in the Abortion Debate," published in Saint Louis University Public Law Review (1993); and "Why Unnatural? The Tradition behind Romans 1:26-27," published in The Harvard Theological Review (1997). He was a member and active participant in several professional associations, notably the international Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas. Early in his career, Bowen edited Mission Magazine, a progressive Church of Christ publication.
Ward was known to "stand always on the side of the oppressed" throughout his career at Miami. He was an early member of the National Organization for Women chapter in Oxford, an organization that led to the eventual founding of the women's center at Miami University, and a founder of the women's studies program at Miami. He was a life member of the N.A.A.C.P. and the first adviser to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance in Oxford, the predecessor to Spectrum. As associate provost, Ward advocated for women and LGBT faculty and students. Miami’s 1809 LGBT Alumni Association annually awards the Roy Bowen Ward Scholarship to an undergraduate student in honor of Roy's long-time support of LGBT students at Miami.
He is a graduate of Abilene Christian College and earned his bachelor of sacred theology (S.T.B.) and doctor of theology (Th.D., 1967) degrees from Harvard University's Divinity School.
Ward is survived by his four children and their families: David Alan (Debbie) Ward, of Nashville, Tenn.; Julia Ward (Dan) Poston of Cincinnati; Mark Andrew Ward of Oxford; and Nathan Edward (Frances) Ward of Phoenix, Ariz.; and several grandchildren.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Alzheimer's Association or Planned Parenthood of the Cincinnati region. Letters of condolence to the family may be sent in care of Julia Ward Poston, 7151 High Pointe Lane, Cincinnati, OH. 45248.
A memorial service will be held for friends and family at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 3, at the Sesquicentennial Chapel on Miami’s campus. The Ogle & Paul R. Young Funeral Home is handling arrangements.